Sunday, April 28, 2013

Animal Diorama-rama and a FREEBIE!

It's that time of year again!  Open House season is here and we are busily working on projects to share with our parents on our big night.  One of the big projects my students will be working on is their Animal Diorama and Research Report.  This was something I did for the first time last year, and it was a HIT!

I got this idea after my son had to make a diorama for his first grade class last year.  We had so much fun creating his animal diorama as a family project, that I decided it was something I had to do with my class too! I brought the idea up to my second grade team, and they were all very excited about it... so we went for it!  We decided to give the assignment the week before STAR testing.  Since we wouldn't be giving homework during the two weeks of testing, that would give students more time to research, gather materials, and work on their projects. Students had about three weeks to complete their projects.  We decided to have the students bring in their completed dioramas the day before Open House.  We were thrilled with the results!  

Here are a few student samples from last year:

Along with this diorama project, our students will also be completing an Animal Research Report poster with information and illustrations, as well as a writing assignment and an oral presentation.  Our students will be getting both a Science and Language Arts grade for this project.

I'm offering my Animal Research Report poster as a FREEBIE on TpT!  Here's a sneak peek:

You can grab it here.  Animal Research Report Poster

If you're looking for everything needed to do this Animal Diorama project with your class, take a peek at my Animal Diorama and Research Report Project Pack!  It's got everything you'll need in one convenient spot!  Last year, I struggled to find examples of dioramas online to show my students, so I've included detailed photo samples of my own students' projects, as well as a step-by-step presentation for your students.

Here's a preview of all of the goodies included in this project pack!

In addition to the Animal Research Report Poster and step by step presentation for your students (which can be projected onto your Smartboard or other type of computer projector), I've also included a student-friendly rubric with grading expectations for all aspects of this project, as well as a grading rubric for teachers to use when giving final grades for this project, student instruction sheet, writing template for research report, and a presentation outline to help guide students on what to focus on for their oral presentation.  It's everything I struggled to put together last year for this project in one convenient place! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sweet Ideas for Mom!

Mother's Day is right around the corner, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite class projects to create for this special day!

One of my most FAVORITE things to make with my students are these absolutely gorgeous tissue paper flowers.  I know they look complicated, but they're really not!  What I love the most about creating these with my class is to see the looks on the students' faces when they realize that they actually created these beautiful things all by themselves!  If I get time, I will post step by step instructions later, but for now... you can find a pretty decent tutorial here.

Another one of my favorites is the classic coupon book.  It's such a cute, simple idea that kids love to make and moms love to receive.   I had a hard time finding a coupon template that I liked, so I made my own!  I then decided to jazz it up a little by mounting it on cute scrapbook paper, punching a small hole in the side, and tying some cute ribbon on it.  Here's the  finished product, along with another creation - my little twist on the classic teapot card, my "Cup o' Tea for Mom" Craftivity:

Teapot card front...

Cup o' Tea for mom (inside) with poem, and cup & tea bag for mom on the right!

I've put all of these cute little projects (with the exception of the tissue paper flowers) plus a few more goodies in my "All About Mom" download on TpT.

Here's a little sneak peek at all of the goodies included in this file:
I'll be throwing a sale in my TpT store tomorrow (Saturday) through Monday!  You can grab this pack of Mother's Day Printables in English and Spanish for only $2.40! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spark Motivation Saturday - Linky Party!

Today I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Motivation Saturday LINKY PARTY! 

This linky party is for sharing ideas about little tips or tricks we have for motivating students in the classroom! My first idea was to link up a previous post I made about a great behavior chart that really gets my students motivated!   You can find that link here,

If you've got any great ideas to share, be sure to hop on over to her page and link it up!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day!

My students and I have been very busy this week preparing for Earth Day.  I've been focusing on how we can help the Earth in a big way by doing small things like Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling (the 3 R's)!  That reminds me... if you haven't heard this song by Jack Johnson, you've got to check it out.  It's so cute, and the students LOVE singing along with it! Three R's by Jack Johnson (with lyrics)

Earlier this week, I read a great book about recycling by Gail Gibbons.  Afterwards, I brought a bag of trash from home (I say "trash", but it was pretty much boxes, packages, bottles, and cans... nothing icky, I promise).  I went through each item in my "trash" bag and we talked about what it was, and if it can be recycled.  The students quickly started noticing that our bag of "trash" was quickly being REDUCED in size because we were able to RECYCLE almost everything that had been thrown away!  On Monday (Earth Day), we will be spending some time outside with bags picking up trash around the school and field, doing some more recycling, and planting a seed!   Of course, we will also be working on all of the fun activities in my "Celebrate Earth Day" unit all week long, that is... when we're not doing tons of TEST practice!  Only 10  more days until our state testing begins.  Yikes!

Here is a little sneak peek at my Earth Day Unit. 

It includes:  Earth Day Reading Comprehension (Grades 2-3), Earth Day Word Search, Earth Day Word Scramble (and Key), Earth Day ABC Order, "I will help our Earth by... " Writing Prompt, Earth Day Cause and Effect Flip Book Examples and Printables, Bulletin Board Templates, and BONUS page of Earth Day Vocabulary Cards (just added!)

Happy Earth Day, everyone! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Calendar Practice - They still need it!

I'll admit that I thought my students had a pretty good grasp of basic calendar skills.  After all, they've had daily calendar activities as a part of their daily routine since preschool, and we even spent the first trimester in second grade doing daily calendar activities as well.  I guess I just made the mistake of assuming that they knew more than they did.  So when our last benchmark test rolled around, I didn't think they would have a problem answering a few questions about monthly and yearly calendars.  Boy, was I wrong.  Sample Question:  "About how many days are in one month?"  Average student answer:  "SEVEN!"  Sample Question:  "How many months are in a year?"  Average student answer:  "SEVEN!"  And finally, Sample Question:  "How many weeks in one year?"  Average student answer:  "SEVEN!"  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Okay, I did have a handful of students who did very well on the benchmark test, but there were too many of them who are obviously still confused about days, months, weeks, and how they are all related to one year in the concept of time.  I noticed that many of them kept answering "SEVEN" because they know that there are seven days in a week.  Beyond that, there's still a lot of confusion.

My second grade team and I sat down the other day and started discussing things that we're doing in our own classrooms that are working.  One of my coworkers shared this fabulous idea (thanks Denise!) for monthly calendar practice from one of our math workbooks that she's been doing with her students each month.  I decided to make my own version and adjusted some of the questions, but you can grab it here:

Here's what it looks like:

I am so excited to get started on these with my students.  I'm planning on copying a ream of these little gems front and back and having them ready to go in my paper drawer!  I love it when I find a great new resource to add to my routine!  Hope it can help you, too!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Daily Spelling Practice

If you're looking for some simple and effective spelling practice pages for homework or seat work, then I've got a sweet treat for ya!  This freebie includes 5 different spelling practice pages including ABC order/ 3 times each, Stair Step Spelling, Pencil / Crayon, Spelling Sentences, and Picture Spelling.

Picture Spelling Page:  My students LOVE doing these as part of our weekly spelling routine!  After clapping and spelling each word, we talk about the word and it's meaning, and then the students write them down.  Once all words are written down, I give them time during our seat work time to make an illustration for each word.  Some words are tricky to make pictures for, so we just write a sentence for those.  I mean really, how do you draw "certain"?  :)

I have been using these for spelling homework this year, and I usually copy a mixed-skills math review page on the back.  This page, along with their weekly practice reader, is their daily homework.  One of my colleagues uses these pages for her daily seat work during her Daily 5 Centers for Language Arts.

You can grab these pages here!

What does your spelling homework routine look like?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Pocketful of Poems

Did you know that April is National Poetry month?  I've been on Spring Break during this first week of April, but when I return to school on Monday, my students and I are going to start celebrating by learning about and creating our own poems!  I absolutely LOVE teaching my students about poetry.  It's so refreshing!  It's a break from the norm and they just soak it up like little sponges!  I usually introduce a new poem each day.  Some poems that are a little more complicated will take a few days to cover.  After giving the poetry lesson, we talk about it, I show lots of examples, and then we do a shared writing and create one together.  Many times, we do the activity whole group as I write examples on the board for them to choose from (or create their own).  I've been making poem books with my students for the past five years or so, but I finally compiled all of my lessons into one handy file, including student printables for each, and a cover page for a Poem Book.

Here's a little sneak peek: 

This Pocketful of Poems Unit is hot off the presses and freshly added to my TpT store.  Also - I'm throwing a SALE from now until Monday 4/8.  You can grab this Poetry Unit for 20% off!  That's a sweet deal!

Here's a direct link:   Pocketful of Poems on TpT

Also, did you know that Thursday, April 18th is national Poem in Your Pocket Day?  I didn't either.  But now that I do, we're going to celebrate that too by creating these cute little Pocketful of Poems Craftivities.  
What's in your pocket? 

I can't wait to get started on Monday! More pics and student examples to come soon! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vocabulary Notebooks Simplified

A few years ago, I discovered a simple way to do vocabulary notebooks that I thought was worth sharing.  They are cheap and easy to make, and they've become a regular part of our daily Language Arts routine.  My students love adding new words to their notebooks each day, and at the end of the unit, we take time to go back and review and even play some fun bingo games with our words!  I love not having tons of papers to shuffle around and make copies for! 

Here's how I make them:
  • You will need to purchase a class set of 20 page composition books online (they are pretty cheap from Office Depot).  Anything over 20 pages will be very hard to cut.  Trust me on this one. 
    This is what I usually use, but any brand will do.
  • Cut them in half with a HEAVY DUTY paper cutter.
  • I like to print labels for mine so they look like this:
  • You can save half for more vocabulary notebooks later, or use the other half for a math notebook (future blog post!)
For daily vocabulary lessons, this is our daily routine:
    1. The students turn their notebooks to the first blank page and fold the paper in half (this makes a line so they can see the middle of the page better).
    2. I have my students use a ruler to make a line down the middle (over the fold they just made), and then another line across to make a 4-square.  We like to keep our vocabulary notebooks nice and neat. 
    3. In the top left box, we write the vocabulary word, count and write the number of syllables, and then divide the word into syllables.  
    4. If possible, we will also make an illustration in this box to help us remember the word.  In some cases, we can write the word the way the vocabulary word describes.  For example, one of our words was "thorny", so we wrote the word "thorny" with thorns all over it!  Ha!  Get it?  
    5. In the second box, we write the definition of the word.  We like to use a student-generated definition.  It's much easier for them to remember.
    6. In the third box, we write a list of synonyms and then one or two antonyms (if there is one.)
    7. In the last box, we use the vocabulary word in a sentence.  I usually have the students do a "think, pair, share" with their neighbors to brainstorm ideas for a sentence, and then we do a "whip around" the room to share out sentence ideas.  Then, they write it down in their notebook, making sure to underline the vocabulary word they used.  
    8. VoilĂ   The finished product: (A few examples for ya!)

    I absolutely love doing these with my students.  They are always engaged in the vocabulary lesson and I love that they will also have a great resource to take home with them when we're done.  I'd say that's a win!  

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Currently for April

    As you probably already know, I'm new to this whole blog thing.  I feel like I've entered a whole new universe and I'm floating around all by myself!  In an effort to gain some more exposure to this little blog o' mine, I'm linking up with Oh Boy 4th Grade's Blog for her April Linky Party! Special thanks to Heather at Heather's First Grade Heart for telling me about this great opportunity and pointing me in the right direction! 

    And now... here is my "Currently" for April.  Thanks for reading!  

    Listening to:  My kids laughing and playing with all of their Easter goodies.  We sure had a chocolate bunny fueled fun fest over here yesterday!  They are still wound up on Easter candy, so they've been extra loud and silly today, but we had a great day just hanging out at home.  I've also got my iHome on Pandora in the kitchen, so the sound of Duffy, Adele, Amy Winehouse, and the like is winding it's way around the house in the background.  Love Pandora!

    Loving:  I am so in love with FONTS!  I seriously think I have a problem.  I. CAN'T. STOP!  Just when I think I have enough, then I find another site and even more fun fonts to look at!  My favorite fonts are from these sites:  Kevin & Amanda, Da Font, and Fontspace.

    Thinking:  I'm thinking about all of the projects to do for my new TpT adventure.  I currently only have 4 products in my store, but I currently have two projects in the works and I'm almost finished with them.  My goal is to get those up on my TpT store by the end of my Spring Break.  I'm also working on some ideas for new blog posts.  We're getting ready to start our big Animal Diorama project next month (another big hit for Open House), so I will be sharing some photos of student examples, as well as a student instruction sheet, animal report template, and grading rubric. 

    Wanting:  To slow down and enjoy the ride.  Lately, it seems that things have been moving so quickly and now that I'm starting out on this new blogging / TpT adventure, I never seem to have enough time!  But when my sweet little four year old daughter comes up to me (while I'm busily typing on the computer) and says "Mama... will you cuddle with me?"  How can you resist?  I just have to stop... step away from my projects and make time for my babies.  They are only little for so long, and I am loving this time I get to be home with them and just be their mom.  There will always be time to work on blogs and projects after they go to sleep.  * sneaking off to snuggle my kids before they go to bed...

    Needing:  To get back on track!  I have been on a weight loss journey since January 1st.  I joined Weight Watchers with a good friend of mine and lost 10 pounds, but I still have a lot more to go.  I'm hoping to be at my goal weight in time for summer vacation!  I've joined a yoga studio, so I try to go to at least 2 or 3 classes every week.  I'm also doing kickboxing after school once a week, and trying to eat CLEAN foods (i.e. no "white stuff"  i.e. sugar, white flour, white rice, etc.)  I was doing okay, until the darn Easter bunny came and left all this chocolate in my house!  Tomorrow.  I will get back on track tomorrow!

    Advice:  I'm a total newbie to this whole blog thing, so the advice I'm giving is also my inspiration for my own blog.  I'm hoping that I will be able to provide some real value to my readers through thoughtful posts about tips or ideas that really work in the classroom.  I don't have much yet, but stay tuned... there will be lots more to come!

    And that about wraps it up, folks!  My first-ever linky party.  So fun!  Can't wait to do it again!

    Spring Cleaning and Organizing My Classroom!

    Spring is here!  I don't know about you, but my classroom is in need of some major Spring cleaning and organizing my piles of paperwork and supplemental materials.  To help with that, I thought I'd share a quick and easy tip for organizing all of those supplemental materials that go along with teaching.  I used to *try* to keep everything organized in file folders, but things always ended up getting mixed up somehow, or folders would seem to disappear into thin air, especially when I needed it most!

    Then I found this great organization tip from a colleague of mine.  It's so simple, but yet it was something I had never thought of before!  All you need is a few of these file folder pocket charts from Lakeshore (about $14.99 each), and then hang them on the wall.  In my classroom, I organize all of my oral vocabulary story cards, vocabulary word and definition cards, and vocabulary pictures by unit and then story (or week), top to bottom.  Example:  Unit 1, week 1 is at the top, followed by Unit 1, week 2, etc.  They are hung right next to my focus wall for Language Arts, so the materials are right there at my fingertips when I need them, and they slip right back in when I'm done.  Quick and easy and no need to re-file anything or (misplace a folder and have to dig it out again for next year!)